Contributed by Jean Rhode, sanctuary volunteer.
Charles came to the farm as part of a huge rescue in NYC. Authorities closed down an illegal slaughterhouse in the Bronx and WFAS took in over 110 of the birds. Although the ASPCA told the farm that the birds were all hens, it turned out that they were nearly all roosters. 83 roosters, including Charles.
Roosters like Charles aren’t meant to be kept together in large groups – a situation forced on them by humankind and irresponsible overbreeding. They have to be carefully socialized, as nature propels them to be aggressive hen-and-turf defenders. As these rescued roos all started to mature, their natural, aggressive and protective tendencies kicked in and Charles, being small, was getting picked on. His crop (the part of a chicken’s chest where food goes when they eat) was always feeling empty, which indicated that other roosters were blocking him from getting food.
I would bring out a special yummy mash for him, and follow him around until we had gotten far enough from the other roosters in the yard. Charles would eat fast straight from the spoon, trying to get down as much food as he could.
The sanctuary built a new coop (with a grant from the ASPCA) to separate the roosters into smaller groups, to help us socialize them better. Every day was a rooster shuffle: who was getting along, who wasn’t, who was the aggressor, who was getting picked on.
It took a lot of patience, staff perseverance and time, but Charles finally found his little posse: three other roosters who don’t pick on him and seem to have struck a blessed balance. He’s found his friends and things have calmed and now – April is almost here! We cannot wait for Charles and all the rescued Bronx roosters to get the first taste of spring they have ever had in their lives – grass, sunshine and peace – at the sanctuary!